Monthly Archive: July 2012

Creatures of Habit

Today’s blog is in memory of my little guy Terry. Dogs love routine, and a routine is essentially the result of a finely tuned process repeated regularly. Click to Tweet

Terry was certainly a stubborn little dog, but when he knew exactly how things were going to go he was happier and well behaved.

Is your team happier and more productive when they know what to do and achieve consistent results ? I bet they are! I don’t mean to say they should be doing one task over and over again. Imagine a common approach to problems, or a fool-proof process for expense reports. It’s dreamy!

From Poop to process….

Some days that stubborn little dog of mine wouldn’t erm….go #2. I’d wait and wait and be late for a meeting or an appointment. So I had to develop a process.

But first I needed to try all the available options. I tried taking him out as soon as I woke up, waiting until the last minute, before he ate, after he ate…you get the picture.

Finally I got there. Wake up, eat, go out, circle the block, and 90% of the time I had success.

But then there are always variables – rain, another dog visiting, his furry friends at the park that distracted him from his duties. So sometimes I made minor adjustments for those days – if the dog park looked busy I circled the other way, I took the dogs out seperately if we had a visiting dog. I had a process, but was willing to adjust as necessary.

The key is, you need a process that meets your goals 80% of the time, and then you can adjust as needed for the other 20%. Why spend all of your time trying to plan for the 2% chance of rain?

Process doesn’t need to be rigid – it can change with circumstances. When data starts telling you to change – DO IT!

Do you sometimes feel that everything is an ad-hoc task? Do you try every possible option for a problem and never know if what you are doing is working? Sometimes a little process thinking can get you on your way, and it doesn’t have to be hard.

The 80/20 Rule – 3 steps to making it work and adjusting for change

  1. Map out your process that happens 80% of the time.
  2. When a bump in the road pops up, try #1 then adjust.
  3. Go back to 1 and document your “new” variable process.

Map, Adjust, Repeat. Don’t make a job out of it – use some sticky notes that you can move around every day until you get your process refined.

Process is a process – give it a try.

Until next week,

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @whiteboardcons to stay up to date on what we’re up to this week. Have thoughts or ideas? Use #betterfastercheaper to join the conversation!

Peacocks and Processes

We have a saying around the Whiteboard office: “It’s a process, it’s a process, it’s a process! It’s NOT a peacock!” Click to Tweet

Weird, right?

What we are trying to say is, don’t be overwhelmed by process design or process improvement. It doesn’t have to be fancy or showy – simple is definitely better in the process improvement world.

But I don’t have any processes…

Ah, we hear that a lot. And to that we say, in the nicest possible way: sure you do!

EVERYTHING is a process. Grilling the perfect steak (season, marinate, sear, flip, grill, serve), getting ready for work in the morning (turn off alarm, shower, dress, breakfast, coffee, car), checking your eMail (sort, read, respond, file).

Let’s look at that last one a little closer.

Do you follow the four eMail steps mentioned above? Or, are you like most people in that eMail causes you untold anxiety every single day? Is your Inbox full of unread eMails? Do you try to keep up, but never quite get there, and then get more emails from people wondering why you haven’t responded?

Guess what? You have an eMail process. It may be ineffective, but you have one! And improving it doesn’t have to be hard.

If your boss told you to fix your eMail process, what would you do? Would you buy expensive process mapping software and hire a consultant to see what the problem is, and then take a training course in how to handle your eMail effectively?

I sure hope not, because you don’t want to turn this into a big showy fancy peacock! Even worse, you don’t want to avoid fixing it by just spending more time at your computer until your Inbox is empty. (Because you know it will fill up again tomorrow.)

I hope you would get a pencil and a piece of paper and draw a really simple process map and really think about all the steps that you take to handle your Inbox. If you do it right, the problem would jump off the page at you! Easy peasy.

It’s Not What You Think

So what is your process for handling eMails? Let’s say you just got back from vacation to find 480 unread emails. What do you do? Perhaps you sit down and draw this process map: Peacocks and Processes

Simple. Straight forward. But no problem appears to jump off the page. Well, again, with respect, we say: “I don’t think so.” It probably looks more like this: Peacocks and Processes

That’s the difference between what we call a “Thought to Be” process map and an “As Is” process map. When you dig into it, the“As Is” really tells the story. In this example you’re wasting time and energy by handling each eMail one at a time, whether they are “info only”, “action required”, “urgent request”, or “meeting requests”. Now the problem jumps off the page – it’s actually a loop with no defined ending!

What if you looked at your Inbox as a pile of tasks, and organized them just as you do your daily To Do list? Then your process map might look like this (we call it the “Should Be” process map). Peacocks and Processes


Suddenly there’s nothing in your Inbox but prioritized action items. Your new efficient process has saved you time and energy, and your customers (and your boss!) are happier with your response time.

Give it a shot and let us know how it works, would you?

Until next week,

PS – Make sure to follow us on Twitter @whiteboardcons to stay up to date on what we’re up to this week. Have thoughts or ideas? Use #betterfastercheaper to join the conversation!

Process Improvement by Osmosis

You may remember the word “osmosis” from high school science (things tend to flow from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration), or you may have learned it in Psychology 101 as “the unconscious assimilation of ideas”.

(Raise your hand if you just thought of the Borg from Star Trek when you read the word “assimilation”.)

Today I want to show you how you can apply the word osmosis to the creation of a Process-Driven Culture.

Resistance is Futile

Are you a change agent? Are you a process improvement nut? Are you lucky enough to be both? If yes, I bet you have a permanent bump on your head because you feel like you bang your head into a brick wall all day long.

You have some great ideas that would make your organization better, faster, and/or cheaper, and you’ve even proven that those ideas work. You have the experience and the data. There is an excellent business case for doing what you suggest and industry best practices show that your idea is working elsewhere.

So why won’t your boss/staff/peers make the changes you suggest? Why won’t they apply simple process improvement tools or go to a conference on business process design?

It comes down to science really.

Back to high school science: remember learning about inertia from Newton’s laws? “An object at rest (or in motion) will remain at rest (or in motion) unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” It’s the same with people – all people will resist changes in their current state unless they are given a darn good reason not to.

Or, Unless They Decide to Change On Their Own

Many of you are probably familiar with the term “coaching” as it refers to employees. A good manager “coaches” their staff members to do the best job they can do via conversation, open-ended-questions, and leading by example.

Cy Charney, author of Just-in-Time Management, says that “Coaching is a process that will let your employees know that what they do and who they are matters to you. Good coaches train their people to do the job right every time.” I would add to that by saying that good coaching involves coaching up and across, as well as down!

Teach your boss, your peers, and your employees to Define It! Map It! Prove It! without them knowing they are being taught!

By using good coaching techniques you can engage people in conversation and get them to start really thinking about problems they are trying to solve, using process improvement tools, and looking for data to prove that what they are proposing will work.

Have a flip chart (or a Whiteboard!) in your office. Ask people to draw their ideas. Slowly steer them in the direction of a process map with swimlanes. Start requiring that kind of diagram on a regular basis.

Ask people for numbers to back up their issues and concerns. Lead them to develop clearly defined problem statements. Start to help people to continually frame their statements in a data-driven manner, and do the same yourself.

Essentially, people will learn by osmosis.

By introducing concepts via coaching, you are making the concept of a process-driven organization and data-based decision-making commonplace. People won’t realize they are following a specific methodology, just as they don’t realize they are using algebra when they analyze numbers.

They assimilate to the new culture you have created. And then, when they are ready, you can start introducing formal programs.

Hey – if you do it right, they will think it was their idea.

Until next week,

PS – check out Cy’s book for some excellent coaching tips, as well as literally hundreds of practical management lessons. Click here to go to his website

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @whiteboardcons to stay up to date on what we’re up to this week. Have thoughts or ideas? Use#betterfastercheaper to join the conversation!

Becoming an Entrepreneur: Secrets from the Crypt.

Starting a business is super risky, and I’ll be the first to say that it takes a great deal of hard work. There are some tips and tricks, however, that can help make your life easier from the start though. Today, I’m going to tell you a trick that helped us.

Am I normal? I wake up scared every single day!

Starting your own business is really scary and overwhelming. We understand that completely. Someone once told me: “As an entrepreneur, you need to wake up scared every single day”. Click to Tweet

Do you worry about what sales tactics you are going to use? Do you stress about product delivery schedules? Have you struggled to find out your target market? Are you so busy operating your business you haven’t thought about strategy or planning?

A quick tool and a little bit of thinking can get you ahead of your competitors, and let you focus on running your business – Better. Faster. Cheaper.

Entrepreneurial Strategy in 15 minutes!

Before Ruth and I started WBC we brought every Post-It Note and marker we could find and we covered the walls with our ideas and then organized them. This type of activity may seem “lame” or corporate. But it gives your organization direction.

The Mission Statement Builder Template

Our mission is to _______ (what you do) for ______ (who are your target customers) with our _________ (unique service/product) in order to ________ (achieve a result *hint: use data).

Before you start filling it out – think about these questions:

  • Why are you starting this business?
  • What kind of product do you want to offer?
  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What kind of values do you want to embrace?
  • What kinds of customers do we want? How would they describe us?
  • What kind of experience will our customers have when they interact with us?

Brainstorm and then prioritize them. It’s really that simple!

The next step is to communicate this mission statement to your team, your staff, and your customers so they know what you stand for.

A good strong collective strategy works better than one that no one knows about. Or one that is all things to all people. Make your business go from scary idea to reality. And that’s the first big step to being your own boss!

See you next week At the Whiteboard, Ruth will be talking about one of our favourite thought leaders, Cy Charney – and his take on leadership and management. (Enter your email below to subscribe to our mailing list.)

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @whiteboardcons to stay up to date on what we’re up to this week. Have thoughts or ideas? Use #betterfastercheaper to join the conversation!

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